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Backov

The logistics of becoming a downsizer.

Hi there, I'm a belated starry eyed convert. I've just finished watching the River Cottage series and I have discovered a dream I didn't know I had. I've lived in the country before when I was a kid, but agriculture in Saskatchewan (Canada) is much different then the life of a smallholder, and it didn't much appeal at the time.

That said, I was hoping someone can share a story or two with me, and perhaps even some advice. I'll outline my situation:

I'm a Canadian/UK citizen living in Canada with my wife, a Canadian. We want to get out of Canada, to move somewhere sunnier - I'm thinking the south of Spain or France myself. I'm a professional computer programmer with about 17 years of experience, and she's a newly minted X-Ray tech, so, with luck we can both work just about anywhere.

What we both really want to happen is to get a smallhold somewhere near a town, near the ocean with some nice land. We need to be able to afford this, and my wife has to be able to work locally. I guess I have a couple questions, since I am a complete noob.

1 - How prevalent is barter? I've got extremely valuable skills, but they're very specialized. I'd rather not be commuting from my smallhold, that's kind of beside the point, so I'm trying to figure out if I can make the life of a remote contractor work.

2 - Anyone doing the smallholder thing in southern France or Spain as a native English speaker? Is it possible? I can easily pick up Spanish or French again, but my wife is terrified of having to learn a new language to survive.

3 - Any suggestions as to where? We want to be near the ocean, have sunny, hot weather, and fairly low cost of living. I know, hard to get. Smile

Anyway, I hope I'll be able to make this work for us, and I look forward to becoming a member of the community.

Cheers,
Jason
vegplot

Re: The logistics of becoming a downsizer.

Backov wrote:
We want to be near the ocean, have sunny, hot weather, and fairly low cost of living


Welcome.

Wales meets 2 out of 3 of those conditions, sadly we're lacking on hot and sunny weather this year (but it does happen occasionally).

What sort of programming experience do you have?
Chez

Welcome!

There are some English-speaking French and Spanish DS members - I'm sure they'll be along soon.
Penny Outskirts

Hello and welcome. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't have your dream Very Happy

If your wife is terrified of the language, then might it be better to settle in a country where English is spoken? The weather in Wales/Scotland may not be hot, but it's beautiful!
ksia

Hi, France calling .....

the bad news is that finding a job will be hard in France. They tend not to recognise 'foreign' qualifications - and even if they do, there will be plenty of French applicants ahead of you for most jobs. Teaching English is the choice of many here, if you fancy that. To be honest, unless your French is just about perfect you're not going to get employed in your chosen fields - could you do distance computing work for UK/US companies? You'll also need more money than you think - me and my partner spend almost nothing on food and clothes etc but still need a joint income of about 15000 euros to get by. (Taxes!! Chainsaw repairs! Internet provider. Health insurance. More taxes. Vet bills for the cats .... you'd be surprised how it mounts up.) If it wasn't for my partner's strength I would probably have given up by now. (In fact Canada looks tempting to me!) Sorry to be so down - but better you get the low-down. Must also say I live in the NW of France maybe things are better in the south ......
Backov

Hey all! Smile

Quote:
What sort of programming experience do you have?


I'm currently a games programmer, but I've done lots of web work as well. I'd actually not mind moving to England, but a few things are putting me off - high taxes, rainy/cold weather (we get too much of that in Vancouver and both of us are right sick of it) - and the low earnings of a programmer in the UK. It's still a possibility though, due to the language issues, so you never know.

As for working in France, ya I'm sure it's changed - I worked at a games company in Paris for about a year in 1997. I didn't have much problems getting along. As for qualifications, 17 years of doing the job tends to work anywhere if you can speak the language. There's not many like me, but I don't really want that kind of work if I can help it, 60-80 hour weeks are so not what I want.

Thanks for the warm welcome, I'm going to be reading the forums some more, hopefully you guys can help me out. Smile
vegplot

I wouldn't say the taxes in the UK are particularly high, especially compared to Europe. There's a thriving games production industry in the UK, some of the best I'm told, and the wages are good if you are. If you considering downsizing then you're won't be looking for big money anyway, isn't that the point?
Backov

Oh yes, I know there's work there for sure, but on a global scale the wages are pretty poor - for instance about 40k pounds is a highish end wage for a games programmer, that's about $20k USD less than I would be getting elsewhere (in the US or Canada, that is). Combine that with higher taxes than I am used to and not the weather I wanted (I'm really jonesing not to see snow again) - and it's not a perfect choice.

Also, the lower wages don't mean less work - the games industry is notoriously dysfunctional, 60-80 hour weeks can be quite common. I'd have to try to get remote contract work to get out of that cycle, and that's not the easiest to accomplish. I'm honestly not too worried about the money side though.

Hey, if I wanted to look at properties in southern Spain, France and England, are there some good resources? Here I would use Craigslist, but I don't think it's very big over there.
LynneA

What about Australia? They have the sunshine and always seem to need healthcare staff.

Not sure if you'd handle the language issues though Laughing
ksia

Hi again Backov,

here are a couple of English-speakers-in-France forums you will find useful - especially if you want to investigate the jobs/property side of things:

www.totalfrance.com/france/forum/index.php

www.completefrance.com/cs/forums/

Have you thought of Australia or New Zealand?
boisdevie1

It's very hard to say wether property in France is cheaper when you take into consideration the average salary. OH and I are both in full time work and we take home about 2200 euros a month between us. Thankfully we don't have a mortgage. If you want to check out the job situation in France the French national site for employment is www.anpe.fr
There you can search for all of France for programming work.
In terms of qualifications being accepted in France why not ask the Canadian Embassy in Paris as a starting point.
The key is research, research, research.
Went

Spain calling:

Well where to begin? Firstly Spain is no longer the lost cost destination it once was - property and land prices have soared over the past ten years and the cost of living generally has risen sharply over the past 2-3 years.

Language will be a big problem for employment - there is a sharpe difference between getting by and using a professional language. Transfer and official recognition of professional qualifications can be achieved but it is a lengthy and complicated process.

The economy is suffering as elsewhere in Europe, high unemployment (the Spanish government announced this week there are cash incentives of up to 20,000 euros for immigrants brought in for the building boom - to return home), housing market static - but prices still high.

As for areas - near the coast you either have the over developed, dry (water shortages) and arrid holiday areas in the south and east coasts or the North where I am which has a great temperate climate (24-25 degrees C) but with higher than average humidity and rainfall - saying that we have a lot of rainfall in a short time and many weeks of lovely dry weather. Portugal might be an option as prices are still relatively low there (I believe)....we have Portugal based Downsizers (Andrea) - so good luck - PM me if you need any specific advice - my OH is native Spanish.

Asturias and Galicia would be my choice but it is a very personal decision - as said earlier - do the research, visit, stay a while and research - we came here many times before settling - did the research and made the right decision for us - however - it has still been problematic on several levels but you can work through these as long as you remain optomistic and positive.
thos

Brussels is English-speaking and the west-side is fairly convenient for the coast. Summers can be hot, but the general climate tends to be wet.

However, for a smallholding you would need to be in a French- or Flemish-speaking area and would need to be fairly fluent to settle in, and property close to Brussels is expensive. The Ardennes are cheap but every year they have six solid months of cold wet weather and then winter comes.
Behemoth

There's that place south of Canada.
frewen

How much are you doing at the moment?

Is there much scope where you are to start your dream and get some skills under your belt before the big leap?
Northern_Lad

Behemoth wrote:
There's that place south of Canada.


Didn't realise Cuba did that much coding.
thos

Northern_Lad wrote:
Behemoth wrote:
There's that place south of Canada.


Didn't realise Cuba did that much coding.

Didn't they get a load of missiles a few years ago, or am I out of date?
vegplot

Backov wrote:
Oh yes, I know there's work there for sure, but on a global scale the wages are pretty poor - for instance about 40k pounds is a highish end wage for a games programmer, that's about $20k USD less than I would be getting elsewhere (in the US or Canada, that is). Combine that with higher taxes than I am used to and not the weather I wanted (I'm really jonesing not to see snow again) - and it's not a perfect choice.


I wish we had snow more often. We get it very rarely.

Taxation doesn't appear to be the gap you say it is according to this table. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxation_in_Canada. You may earn more there but unless you are getting the quality of life you want then it doesn't mean much.
Vanessa

I think the long and the short of it is, there's no eutopia (sp). Every country has its drawbacks. High housing costs, low wages, high taxes ... all relative to each other, of course ... it's easy to focus on the negatives.
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